Dean Summers set to complete the longest ever Australian ocean swim next month

Dean Summers, a regular face in the Australian marathon swimming world, has launched his next marathon swim challenge – the ‘Sixty Miler’. 

Mr Summers has already completed the ‘Triple Crown of Marathon Swimming’ and is only one swim away from completing the prestigious ‘Ocean 7’. 

The ‘Sixty Miler’ will see Mr Summers swim between the ports of Newcastle and Sydney, a distance of 60 nautical miles (approx. 120 kilometres). 

Once completed, this swim will be the longest Australian ocean swim undertaken and will be the equivalent of four English Channel crossings. 

Mr Summers decided to undertake the challenge to showcase that Australia has beautiful marathon swims. 

“The nature of marathon swimming in Australia is that a lot of us travel around the world to participate in Channel swims and other organised marathon swims,” said Mr Summers. 

“We don’t really value the beautiful and diverse coastline that we have here in Australia, so I really wanted to promote that and hopefully draw internationals to come and try our swims.” 

This swim has an interesting history having been attempted twice by Australian marathon swimming legends Des Renford and Susie Maroney but has never been successfully completed.

“Des Rendord attempted the swim in the ’80s and Susie Maroney attempted it in the ’90s but unfortunately these magnificent swimmers were overcome by factors which we can now mitigate against,” said Mr Summers. 

“Des had to abandon his swim after his shark cage sank, but we now have shark shields that can help with that and Susie had to abandon her swim after the weather deteriorated and made it impossible for her to finish, but now we have more reliable weather forecasts.” 

The Sixty Miler course

The ‘Sixty Miler’ will present Mr Summers with great challenges both physically and mentally with the swim expected to take around 36 hours.

“I think the most challenging part of the swim will be trying to find a 40-hour weather window and given that this year is a La Niña weather pattern and the weather has been all over the place,” said Mr Summers.

“I am really trying to avoid a strong north-easterly wind which will bring in the bluebottles because I don’t want that. 

“The stings can inflict great pain and render a swimmer unable to finish the swim because their toxins are designed to disable their prey. I have actually experienced stings before which have forced me out of the water on a number of occasions. 

“I am confident that if we get the right conditions I can swim for 40-hours without a break but critical to this is the management of my fatigue.” 

Mr Summers and his team are looking at embarking on the ‘Sixty Miler’ challenge sometime in the last two weeks of February. 

“Our team are looking at the last two weeks of February for a start off Nobby’s Beach just outside of Newcastle’s port entrance,” said Mr Summers.  

“Our navigators will be watching and evaluating a broad range of data to try to predict the most favourable conditions in that time.

“At this stage, I intend to leave early in the morning so I will experience two sunrises and probably two sunsets, so that will be nice.” 

Mr Summers hopes that the ‘Sixty Miler’ can become a part of the international swim calendar and it will attract more swims of its calibre to Australia. 

Mr Summers ‘Sixty Miler’ swim will be raising funds to support seafarers’ mental health through the incredible work of the Hunterlink EAP. 

To follow Mr Summers on his journey head to his website: Swim Dean here.

Behind the name

Sixty-miler (60-miler) is the colloquial name for the ships that were used in the coastal coal trade, off New South Wales, Australia. The sixty-milers delivered coal to Sydney Harbour from ports and ocean jetties to the north of Sydney. The name refers to the approximate distance by sea from the Hunter River to Sydney.

Although the earliest sixty-milers were sailing vessels, the term was most typically applied to the small coal-fired steamers with reciprocating engines that were used during the late 19th and 20th centuries. In the last years of the coastal coal trade, some sixty-milers were diesel-powered motor vessels.

Over the years of the coastal coal-carrying trade, many sixty-milers were wrecked, involved in collisions with other ships, or foundered. A common factor in most of the losses of sixty-milers was bad weather.

The heyday of the sixty-milers was from around 1880 to the 1960s. During this time Sydney was dependent upon the ships for their energy supplies of gas and electricity.

This swim is a tribute to all seafarers and associated maritime workers who served this trade, to help build both the Sydney and the Australian economy. More generally the Sixty-Miler recognizes the world’s 1.3 million merchant seafarers who sacrifice large parts of their lives, often under terrible conditions.

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